I’m gonna let you finish, but Canada is making some of the best cheese of all time. Repeat: of all time.
At least, that’s the way it seems when reading about its world-renowned Canadian Cheese Grand Prix. That title might make you picture race cars with literal cheese wheels, but unfortunately I have to dash your hopes of that dream becoming a reality just yet.
The Canadian Cheese Grand Prix is a bi-annual event that has been held since 1998. It offers cheese makers all across Canada the opportunity to show off their knowledge and passion for their precious product. The event is sponsored by the Dairy Farmers of Canada and judges all categories of Canadian cheese as long as it is made from 100 percent Canadian cow’s milk. It’s a rigorous and lengthy process. Cheesemakers can enter themselves or nominate a fellow farmer starting December 1st up until January 23rd. The scrupulous judging takes place late February, on the 21st and 22nd. After all cheese has been carefully critiqued, winners are chosen and announced amongst industry leaders at a formal Gala of Champions in late April (this year April 22).
When the competition was first launched in ’98, the founders wanted to spread information and appreciation of domestically produced cheese among the public and industry professionals across the globe. The first year the competition launched, there were 150 cheeses competing in 11 categories. In 2013, a record 225 cheeses competed in 19 categories. This just goes to show that the Cheese Grand Prix is doing exactly what it was expected to do: raise awareness and appreciation for Canadian cheese.
Take it from Allison Spurrell, a Vancouver cheese shop owner who also has four rounds of Cheese Grand Prix judging under her belt. Over the years, she has seen the competition swell along with enthusiasm for Canadian cheese. Spurrell said she sees big things happening in the Canadian cheese scene as more and more younger cheesemakers enter the game. This year she’s taking a step back from the cheese race and holing up in her Vancouver shop. She’ll be offering a tasting of her favorite Grand Prix cheeses, such as category finalist Comox Brie and the 2011 Best in Show Louis d’Or.
Culture has been keeping an eye out for these up-and-coming Canadian cheeses. In our Autumn 2014–2015 Special Edition issue, we featured 75 highly praised cheeses of which some were Canadian. The Ricotta di Campagna from Quebec, for example, is perfect as a creamy filling for crepes or even just with a bundle of berries. We also recommend trying the Canadian Baluchon, with tastes of hazelnut and butter that make for a dreamy grilled cheese sandwich. That is, of course, if you can actually find these gems. Canadian cheese can be rather hard (or expensive) to find in the United States. With demand growing, small cheesemakers in Canada find it hard to keep up production. It can also be difficult for them to obtain enough raw ingredients, since the Canadian government supply-manages milk prices in order to support their dairy farmers. Unfortunately, this does make the product more expensive for us.
For more about the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix and the prize-winning cheeses of Canada, purchase our Best Cheeses issue!
Feature Photo Credit: Cheese isolated on white background cutout by Nattika via Shutterstock